James P. Allison, PhD

James P. Allison, PhD
Chairman, Department of Immunology, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

James P. Allison, Ph.D., is professor and chair of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Department of Immunology in the Division of Basic Science Research. He directs MD Anderson’s Immunology Platform and is deputy director of the David H. Koch Center for Applied Research in Genitourinary Cancers, Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology – Research. He also is a former Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

Allison earned his doctorate at The University of Texas, Austin, and did his postdoctoral fellowship in molecular immunology at Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation, La Jolla, CA. He came to MD Anderson in 2012 from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Allison’s research focuses on the mechanisms that govern T cell responses and applying that basic understanding to overcome cancer’s evasion of attack by the immune system. His fundamental discoveries include the T cell antigen receptor used by T cells to recognize and bind to antigens; the co-stimulatory molecule CD28 that must signal the T cell to launch an immune response to a bound antigen; and the immune system inhibitory checkpoint molecule CTLA-4, which inhibits activated T cells from attacking. Allison developed an antibody against CTLA-4 that became ipilimumab, the first drug ever shown to increase survival for patients with metastatic melanoma. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2011. Additional checkpoints and co-stimulatory molecules also have been identified. Allison is exploring combinations of immunological therapies and targeted drugs in preclinical studies to more effectively treat a variety of cancers.